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Is this a contradiction?

08/27/2007 6:54 AM

Sorry if this is a dumb question but in The Engineer 30 Jul - 12 Aug in an article about bio fuels they said this .........Quote "And because they are derived from plants, they are effectively carbon-neutral when they burn — the CO2 released from their combustion would have been released anyway when the plants decomposed." End quote. Well I was always taught that crude oil was derived from decomposed plants and if that's true then how come crude oil and its derivative products aren't carbon neutral? http://www.theengineer.co.uk/Articles/301246/Field+of+dreams+.htm

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#1

Re: Is this a contradiction?

08/27/2007 7:53 AM

Excellent point...

The world is essentially a closed system (except for the odd asteroid and the constant solar radiation) so I s'pose it's gotta be carbon neutral overall!

But following that, we are a mere speck in the life of the world and our survival doesn't matter a jot.

Come the next ice age we will have all forgotten about global warming.

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#2

Re: Is this a contradiction?

08/27/2007 9:11 AM

The fossil fuels are in fact the carbon integrated or condensed for a long, long time. We are releasing it in a very short period.

The problem is that we like stability in our lives and we are creating accelerated change in our environement.

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#3

Re: Is this a contradiction?

08/27/2007 10:44 AM

Yes - exactly.

It's the difference between capturing carbon last year and releasing it this year, and capturing carbon for a million years and releasing it all this year.

Coal and oil are essentially carbon from outside of the present ecosystem - they are carbon from the ancient past.

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#4

Re: Is this a contradiction?

08/27/2007 11:35 PM

Very cool. (questions and responses)

This is why I am refusing to make any more student loan payments. My Degree shall now read: "BS in BS University of CR4"

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Associate

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#5
In reply to #3

Re: Is this a contradiction?

08/28/2007 4:29 AM

Wait a minute - The Engineer's article says, and I quote, "the CO2 released from their combustion would have been released anyway when the plants decomposed." - end quote. My point was this - if the carbon was released from the plants that make up crude oil when they decomposed, then how come it's releasing carbon again when we burn that oil now? Or, if the carbon was not released when those plants decomposed and turned into oil, then is the Engineer's statement incorrect when they say that carbon is released when plants decompose? Maybe I'm being pedantic here but I'm just trying to get this whole thing straight in my head.

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: Is this a contradiction?

08/28/2007 4:58 AM

It's simply that the fossilised carbon has been there 'fixed' for millions of years and is being released quickly, whereas the biofuel carbon is the carbon that was fixed last year and being released this year. The biofuel carbon that is being fixed this year will be released next year, and so on.

It's the difference between living on one's income and living on one's savings. One can only do the latter while there is money in the bank, and the economy will be affected if the savings are spent at a high rate. Now substitute carbon for money, biofuels for income and fossil fuels for savings, and there it is.

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#7

Re: Is this a contradiction?

08/28/2007 5:47 AM

Your observation is an excellent one and most likely caused by an illness most engineers have from time to time - Over generalization to support current position.

Typically upon closer investigation it ends up with the rest of us scratching our head.

We/I understand the carbon relationship thingy in general and some of us in wonderful detail however there is a great deal of Foo Faa science floating around fossil fuels and the latest concept of "Carbon Neutral". "Carbon Neutral" has become a buzz word of sorts like many of our public feel good, stroke ourselves concepts. Usually that ends up with us paying more out of our pockets to try to stem a change that is coming regardless of our prius in the parking lot. After spending five years post invasion in Kuwait and watching the tons of carbon burned into the atmosphere from open pits you will excuse me if I laugh at the whole concept of carbon neutral. Lets not forget the non eco friendly volcanic activity and the audacity of our bovine friends to take a dump.

Eat them all before they take one is a solution - but then we will. . . Is that carbon neutral ?

We need to take care of our air however it sure would be nice if everyone did, rather than squeeze me until my head pops with meaningless terms and crazes of the day, whilst wearing shoes that require adhesives that are petrochemicals. Not to mention flying around in private jets purchased with the money from a company that plays a shell game of finger pointing where the carbon usage finally sits. Mostly we need to stop kidding ourselves – KISS

Engineering isn't a matter of opinion.

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#8
In reply to #3

Re: Is this a contradiction?

08/28/2007 8:48 AM

Good point. I added the point to a previous discussion re the data that China alone burns up to 200,000,000 tons of coal a year, and India contributes 10 million tons a year.

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Guru
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#9
In reply to #7

Re: Is this a contradiction?

08/28/2007 10:46 AM

Sweet answer and you ended by Zapping us with a kiss. However, have we really answered the original question?

One fundamental fact we all know for use (I hope). Plants require carbon dioxide to produce their food and energy to grow. If we remove all the carbon dioxide from the air (and water), the plants would soon die and then the animals that graze the plants for food would die, and since we are at the top of the food chain, we would die. It is that simple.

Now, the next step is that animals require oxygen to burn the fuel (the plant's food) produced by plants. Oxygen is very reactive with carbon. Too much oxygen (100%) and the plants and animals would spontaneously burn in due time, producing carbon dioxide which will limit the spontaneous combustion. This would leave a mixture of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the atmosphere. The plants that survived the early burn would flourish as they did at the beginning of life on earth but animal life would have to begin again, just as has happened with past extinctions. The question is, "what for of animal life will evolve after we are extinct?".

It took eons of evolution to reach today's stable state of earth. But in just a few decades, we, the top of the food change and the most intelligent of the life forms yet to evolve, are thoughtlessly changing the stability of the earth. Nature has taken pains to lock up carbon to build a stable state for life to succeed. Nature has trapped access carbon (and many other damaging pollutants such as sulfur) as coal and petroleum. In fact, Nature has seen fix to store more methane (a 10 times more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2) as a hydrate ice in the pressure and cold of the depths of our oceans. I am sure that nature did this to give life a source of energy as it evolved an intellect. It seem, however, that as life developed its intellect it has become greedy for energy, more and more energy, to give itself those creature comforts is so desires. Nature's way is not good enough for some life forms. (A side note, one is free to substitute the word God for nature if that please him/her - I find that Nature and God are synonymous.)

Thus, we, the engineer, needs to work to bring nature back to a stable state, where there is just enough oxygen for the animals, just enough carbon dioxide for the plants, and to stop poisoning our earth's stability. With the intelligence given to us by mother nature, why don't we become better stewards of the resources mother nature provided us. Why not use the most abundant of all energy sources, hydrogen, and let mother nature do her thing. After all, mother nature uses hydrogen right now, today, to provide us with all the energy needed by all live forms, the sun. The sun, in turn, gives us the carbon and iron, and all the elements that make up this earth we call home. The sun gives us life! Now, let's take the time to thank mother nature by studying mother natures ways. Let's become better stewards of this earth by using the our GOD given intellegence. Let's live and learn. The best place to learn after school is through continued adult education. The best place to continue your adult education is on the Internet. Here is a link to one on the best of all FREE, self taught, adult educations one can get on the Internet, MIT.

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#10
In reply to #5

Re: Is this a contradiction?

08/28/2007 11:19 AM

I think you have a very valid point here. Conditions on Earth must have been very different at the time the coal and petroleum formed. Today, if a tree falls and is not used for lumber or fuel, it decomposes over a period of a few decades (at least in the climate where I live). Try burning the result of that decomposition - it produces little heat if you can get it to burn at all.

At the time when the coal and petroleum were forming, some set of conditions must have existed such that the plant and animal material was buried nearly as fast as it was produced, so most of it did not decay, and the stored energy got sequestered for our use today.

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#11
In reply to #9

Re: Is this a contradiction?

08/28/2007 1:37 PM

I appreciated your thourough explanation of your view and understanding of the core info on the subject matter concerning the topic of nature and our calling as engineers. . . However. . .

You know that's like saying; BUT. (For us simple guys)

So

To not put a too fine point on this I'll restate the actual question:

Sorry if this is a dumb question but in The Engineer 30 Jul - 12 Aug in an article about bio fuels they said this .........Quote "And because they are derived from plants, they are effectively carbon-neutral when they burn — the CO2 released from their combustion would have been released anyway when the plants decomposed." End quote. Well I was always taught that crude oil was derived from decomposed plants and if that's true then how come crude oil and its derivative products aren't carbon neutral? http://www.theengineer.co.uk/Articles/301246/Field+of+dreams+.htm

I responded in my usual KISS - Keep it simple silly - manner. (With a little license and leeway as per my personal views)

Now I agree with some of your post and its lofty goals of a pure engineering view. My answer was simply to the original question and as for our personal views on our responsibilities; I find mine are economic in nature. I engineer for my company/clients and my company/client pays me for that engineering work. The end result, a useable viable product that is meets the requirements of its buyer. It also means a product that's as simple as it is able to be achieved. KISS

I apologize in advance for my unorthodox style or narrative posts and the rather unique application of sentence structure and punctuation. enjoy

Insert widget a into slot c and turn until tight.

My question always is – define tight.

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#12

Re: Is this a contradiction?

08/28/2007 4:32 PM

In my experience, "carbon-neutral" means that the CO2 released when biofuels burn is approximately equivalent to that consumed by the plants from which the fuel is derived. For example, when we harvest grain to make biofuel, we plant more grain in its place. The CO2 released when the biofuel is burned is then consumed by the new grain that was planted, and the cycle continues. When fossil fuels are burned, there are not necessarily any new plants to consume the CO2 released.

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#13

Re: Is this a contradiction?

08/28/2007 5:02 PM

Ok... you are all getting into what seems political rhetoric and not answering the underlying question: Is the statement a contradiction? Yes it is.

The burning of fuel, be it wood, coal, oil or butt gas is not a carbon neutral process as it pertains to "green house gases". This process whether it is done by people, mother nature or God releases stored carbon into the atmosphere. The only energy producing carbon neutral processes that I can think of at the moment is a nuclear or fusion reaction that does not react and form carbon (some stars are massively non carbon neutral, thank God).

If you release stored carbon into the atmosphere, you are not being carbon neutral. It does not matter when it was produced, who produced it or how it was produced if it is released into the atmosphere it is released carbon.

The easy answer to a good proportion of this mess is based on a KISS principal. Learn to use less and reuse more in everyday life. If you put out more than one full garbage can a week for pick up, start there. Cut back to one can, half a can etc. Less garbage less carbon production, less carbon release.

Keep it simple stupid. Pick one wasteful thing that you do and reduce the amount of waste you produce from it. Then pick another if you like. Make the process work for you and your lifestyle. You don't need to change the world to affect the world. Just learn to take care of the grams and pennies then the tons and dollars will take care of themselves.

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#14
In reply to #13

Re: Is this a contradiction?

08/29/2007 5:18 AM

Your observation is an excellent one and most likely caused by an illness most engineers have from time to time - Over generalization to support current position.

I agree and said so - yes- excellent observation. In addition I gave a idea of how it occured.

Anywho. . . Your milage may vary

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#15
In reply to #12

Re: Is this a contradiction?

06/23/2009 10:52 AM

Hallo Data,

Truely it's right, thats why we have "treibhouseeffekt" in our earth. i remember in the study time we call it, balance. Let say our earth is "the reactor", we caunt it as material balance. Do we forget other aspect like: CO2 scrubber, absorber, CO2 content drinks like Cola and Sprite?

regards,

rose line

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